Despite a wave of new laws that hit schools this week, a majority of adults oppose banishing LGBTQ topics from U.S. classrooms.
The most controversial of these new measures, Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Bill—which critics are calling the “Don’t Say Gay” bill—prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through 3rd grade. Any LGBTQ-related instruction or discussions in later grades must be “age-appropriate.” It also requires administrators to notify parents when there is a change in the mental, emotional or physical health care being provided to their children at school. “Parents have every right to be informed about services offered to their child at school and should be protected from schools using classroom instruction to sexualize their kids as young as 5 years old,” Florida Gov. DeSantis said in a statement after signing the bill.
And on Wednesday, the governors of Arizona and Oklahoma became the latest in a string of GOP state leaders to ban transgender athletes from girls’ K-12 sports.
But a poll released this week found that more than half of adults oppose censoring LGBTQ-themed books and curriculums. Respondents also said that elementary school was the most appropriate time for students to learn about LGBTQ topics in classes such as history, English, and health education, according to the survey by The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention and mental health organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning youth.
“This poll emphasizes just how out of step recent political attacks aimed at LGBTQ students and their families are with public opinion,” said Sam Ames, The Trevor Project’s director of advocacy & government affairs. “A majority of adults reject the government overreach we’re witnessing across the country—whether it’s banning books, censoring school curriculums, or intervening in medical care decisions that are best left to doctors and parents.”
K-12 culture wars: State-by-state rundown of new laws that limit what schools teach
Here’s a closer look at some of the survey’s numbers:
- 57% of adults oppose blocking students from accessing LGBTQ content on the internet at school
- 56% oppose banning books on LGBTQ topics from school libraries
- 52% oppose barring classroom discussions about LGBTQ topics, including sexual orientation and gender identity
- More than half of adults agree that transgender minors should have access to gender-affirming hormone therapy if it’s recommended by their doctor and supported by their parents
- Only one-third of the adults polled said lawmakers should be able to outlaw gender-affirming medical care for minors
The poll of 2,210 adults was conducted on Feb. 18-19. “All LGBTQ young people deserve access to safe, affirming learning environments and the health care they need,” Ames said. “We urge lawmakers to look at these data and to listen to their constituents’ concerns before pushing politically unpopular, misguided policies that will cause real harm.”
‘Don’t say gay’ challenged
A coalition of students, parents, educators and advocacy organizations on Thursday filed a federal complaint against Florida’s new parents’ rights law. The group, which includes organizations such as Equity Florida and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, contends that the “Don’t Say Gay” law will “erase for an entire generation of Florida public school students the fact that LGBTQ people exist and have equal dignity.”
The plaintiffs also say that they have already been harmed by the law, which they argue was left purposely vague to intimidate administrators and teachers from covering LGBTQ topics. “I am frightened that this new law will prevent my daughter’s teachers from protecting her from bullying at school,” Lindsay McClelland, mother of plaintiff Jane Doe, a transgender fifth-grader at a Florida public school, said in a statement. “All I want is for my daughter to be able to learn in a safe environment like any other student.”